After Soy, Almond and Pea, why did Oat Milk Win?

When I tried oat milk seven years ago, I knew it would overtake most of alt-dairy. I’ve tried every possible alt milk there is. Most make me gag. In the world of alt milk, a couple of things are essential- 1)superior sensory experience with 2) no overpowering taste. However, nothing to date was able to pull this off. Every single alternative had significant sensory trade-offs. Some even had nutritional trade-offs. Rice milk? Really? Come on.

Oat milk, however, is truly set up to command a premium. The grain has mass-market acceptance thanks to Quaker and Cheerios.  The nutrition profile of oats was 21st century 150 years ago. It’s a real powerhouse of nutrient density. Not to mention that oats deliver above-average levels of satiety due to their high fiber content.

As with Impossible foods, it is often a very late mover in extremely difficult acts of culinary mimicry, that finally, finally nails it.

In natural foods and beverages, the early movers are usually just plain awful. Only a mother would consumer them.

I find the left-field triumph of oat milk to be a fascinating example of how late movers can indeed take over categories that featured too little R&D and too much branding, marketing, and shelf capture. Building billion-dollar franchises on the backs of consumer compromise and trade-off works until someone eliminates the trade-off. I’m sensing fun times are not at hand at White-wave as they scramble for the third time to re-gain control of the space they invented.

(PS- I still think Impossible is over-valued based on a wild overestimation of people’s concern for the environment in the developed world.)

Dr. James Richardson

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